Modjadji Kingdom tells Cyril Ramaphosa to fast-track its land claim.
THE Balobedu Kingdom has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure its claim for more than 200 commercial farms across Mopani in Limpopo is finalised as soon as possible.
However, Prince Mpapatla Modjadji says the land should be returned peacefully to the ancient Modjadji tribe with the help of the government in the same way its Queenship status has been restored.
Speaking at the queenship restoration celebration at Mokwakwaila Village, the regent also lamented the delays in the finalisation of the claims lodged between 1996 and 1998.
Dignitaries including Ramaphosa, his predecessor Jacob Zuma, ZCC spiritual leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane; Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her husband Mathole Motshekga, a member of the Balobedu clan, as well as Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha and VhaVenda King Toni Mphephu Ramabulana graced the occasion.
Prince Mpapatla, who accompanied 13-year-old queen-elect Masalanabo Modjadji V11 to the function, said his tribe had claimed the multi-million hectare land that stretches between Tzaneen and Giyani. It is circled by the Letaba, Klein Letaba and Middle Letaba Rivers, he said.
“Some of it was bought by Queen Khesethwane, and during that time they were not allowed to be given title deeds. They were given deeds of grant of which we still have some at home. Some of those pieces of land were never returned. But we know they were part of our land,” Prince Mpapatla said.
“We don’t need the land to be brought to us through war. Like I told you, we are people of peace. We don’t need war to get our land back. We just need our land back in a proper way with the help of our government, and that land involved more than 200 farms that we have claimed and we haven’t got a single farm of that land.”
He stressed that the Balobedu planned to use the land to create jobs and boost economic development.
“If there are people who want to farm on that land they will go on partnership with us, and we make sure Balobedu benefit from that land, not a few people, but Balobedu in terms of work, in terms of food. If there is no land which may be used for farming, then Balobedu may allocate it to their people”.
This came two months after Parliament adopted an EFF-sponsored Motion on Expropriation of Land Without Compensation by 241 votes t0 83. The ANC, UDM, APC and Agang supported the motion while the DA, Freedom Front Plus and Cope opposed it.
The motion has since been referred to Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee, to effect expropriation of land without compensation, and report back to the National Assembly by August 30.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Affairs, has since taken a hard line approach to the land issue, saying she would use current laws to expropriate land as the constitutional review committee deliberates on the matter. She said it was unacceptable for blacks to own 4% of the land 24 years into our new dispensation.
Ramaphosa acknowledged the delays in land restitution but urged the Balobedu to be patient and allow government and parliamentary processes to take place.
He committed his government to returning the land of the Modjadji tribe in the same way it did their queenship.
Ramaphosa said the fact that the apartheid government had allocated 87% of the land to the white minority, and the rest to the black majority, meant that much of the land was not productively utilised. His government, he added, wanted to change this and ensure food security.
“That we are going to return the land to our people is a foregone conclusion because we are going to do it, and we will do it for the sake of the dignity of our people. But also, for the sake of increasing the agricultural production of our agricultural sector and also to grow the economy of our country,” Ramaphosa said.
“So, therefore, it is in this area that our traditional leaders have a role to play in promoting the attractiveness of agriculture to all our people.”
He urged those who were forced to the urban areas to consider returning “to come and work the land as we return the land to our people”.
Willem Van Jaarsveld, the CEO of Agri SA in Limpopo, said he was not aware of the Balobedu land claim in Letaba.
However, the fact that the government had failed to finalise it two decades later was the reason behind the current “chaotic” land reform process, uncertainty and threat to food security, he added.
“The implications for the commercial farmers, whether they are our members or not, with claims that have not been finalised is much more devastating impact that a claim which has been finalised successfully,” Van Jaarsveld said.
He said this was because investment on land that has been claimed and not finalised stops, which devalues the property and affect food security.
“To us, it’s just as unacceptable that so many claims have not been finalised as it is for the claimants. So there are frustrations on both sides for different reasons.”
Van Jaarsveld added: “We must succeed in land reform; otherwise we will not have food security.”